Father’s Day was yesterday. As much as I wanted to write about my dad I couldn’t grasp the words circling out of control, like a tornado, in my brain. Inner turmoil of sadness, anger, joy and guilt has been chewing away at every thread of my conscience. Not that I have anything to feel guilty about, or do I?
You see, in my book ‘Does She Think of Me, A Birth Mother’s Journey to Forgiveness’, I blame dad’s addiction to alcohol, our dysfunctional home life and lack of support as the reason’s for surrendering my child to adoption. I was brutally honest and didn’t sugar coat anything. If dad was alive would I have written this book? That’s a hard NO. Not because I feared him but because I loved him.
Dad’s binge drinking lasted anywhere from six to twelve weeks or more. Hating him came fast and easy when he drank. Loving him required me to trust that each binge was his last. Sobrieties life span stretched eight weeks to four years which gave him plenty of time to earn our trust back. I adored sober dad!
Walking away from a full time alcoholic would have been a hell of a lot easier than surviving the nauseating emotional roller coaster ride of a binge drinker. Although he was never physically abusive the mental turmoil left internal scars one never forgets. Dad never raised his voice in argument even when mom got angry with him. He would smirk as he listened to her rant and then walk away in silence which I think pissed her off more. I truly believe he enjoyed the feistiness that is characteristic of a red heads personality.
For some reason the words, ‘I love you’ were easier for dad to say after a long conversation with Captain Morgan (rum, always a 26oz bottle). I hated drunk dad.
Although the smell of rum takes me back to darker times my dad’s legacy is so much bigger that 26 ounces. Alcohol could not erase all that was good in him.
Handsome, soft spoken with a shy demeanor, my dad stood as big as grizzly Adams at 6’6″ tall and was referred to as ‘the gentle giant’ by all who knew him. His eyes twinkled when he smiled and his mischievous chuckle put the finishing touches to a well played out prank. Although he only had a grade four education his talents were many like starting and running a successful landscaping business until Captain Morgan took it all away.
Magical moments will live forever as I proudly remember what a great singer he was as well as his ability to pick up any musical instrument and play it by ear. Although traditional Newfoundland tunes danced from his accordion the guitar was his favourite instrument as he sung songs by George Jones, Johnny Cash, Smiley Bates, Tom T. Hall, Don Williams and many, many more.
Children and animals gravitated to him like a magnet. He sat my daughter (maybe two years old) down on the floor and placed an entire tub of ice cream between her legs. He’d say “Heave ‘er into ya” as he chuckled in my direction. Mikey, dad’s Cockatiel bird, was trained to sit on his left shoulder and nibble on a cracker perched between dad’s lips. The fact that Mikey loved to sit on the neck of dad’s guitar as he strummed a tune was odd but quit entertaining. We called him the animal whisperer because when he held out his hand the creatures would come and feed, fearlessly.
When he worked he worked hard. A humble man, he shy’ed away when people spoke in awe of how one man could possess so much strength. Helping people fed into his good naturedness and was easier to do than saving himself from the addiction.
As kids mom had us attend weekly TeenAnon meetings. It was there we learned that dad and alcohol were not one. We learned it was ok to love him. We learned his addiction did not define who he was as a person, a husband, a father, a grandfather. My dad was good, kind and respected. He loved and was loved.
From 2002 until his passing in 2012 he was sober. Those were the best memory filled ten years I had with him. Many conversations left me longing for an apology for the childhood his addiction denied us but I learned early on in life that you have to let shit go and love on the blessings you are given.
I was at dad’s bedside when he took his last breath. Reliving the past, as healing as that might have been, never happened. What brought me the most comfort was observing his face lit up with a huge smile as his glazed eyes stared at up at the ceiling. It was as if he saw someone he hadn’t seen in a very long time. I hope it was his mom. Still grinning from ear to ear he proceeded to hum a song I couldn’t recognize, due to his breathlessness. Then he was gone!
Dad gave the best hugs. Wrapping his massive arms around you he would give a gentle squeeze and pause. Not a quick reception hug that lacked affection but one with love, connection and meaning. Who knows maybe it was his way of saying what he couldn’t verbalize, “I’m sorry”.
I could really use one of those hugs right now. Not only to wish him a Happy Father’s Day but to also say, “I’m sorry”.
Thanks for listening old friend.